Ogimaawabiitong (Kenora Chiefs Advisory) is honoured to have hosted Right to Play’s Canadian Advisory Board for a tour of KCA properties, Grassy Narrows First Nation, and the Kenora Youth Wellness Hub to see how their support continues to enhance the lives of countless youth in the area.

Ogimaawabiitong’s Right to Play program is designed to promote health, wellness and social connection among children and youth through play and various sports and activities.

“Laughter is medicine, and when the youth are at programming, they laugh and have fun together,” explained Wabaseemoong Community Mentor with Right to Play, Nicholas Zroback.

Our Community Mentors provide regular activities in our eight partner communities in Treaty #3. Activities vary in each community but generally include sport and recreational activities, community and inter-community events, sports clinics, team challenges and cultural activities.

Last week, donors, sponsors, and leaders from Right to Play and its Canadian Advisory Board made their way from southern Ontario to see first-hand how KCA has incorporated Right to Play programming into the lives of youth across Treaty #3.

“The most special part is hearing the young leaders who are so passionate about doing the hard work. It’s so rewarding,” says Susan Vardon, National Director of Right to Play’s Canadian National Office.

“The organization exists to protect, educate, and empower young people who are living in challenging circumstances through the power of play, and Indigenous communities continue to face significant barriers to success,” she adds. “When you have the opportunity to visit communities…it’s very motivating.”

The group first made their way to KCA’s Youth and Family Wellness Camp where they met with representation from KCA’s Board of Directors, Chief Chris Skead of Wauzhushk Onigum and KCA Senior leadership, before heading to Grassy Narrows First Nation to meet with local youth leaders, and later, a trip to the Kenora Youth Wellness Hub.

During the visit, Hub staff were able to showcase a few of the services they provide at the downtown location to youth to highlight the importance of Right to Play’s continued support, both in community and in urban spaces, to help ensure youth have a continuous connected pathway to care.

“It’s great to see people who want to help people come together and do it in different ways,” says Group Head and CEO of Global Banking and Markets at ScotiaBank, Jake Lawrence, who serves as the Chair of Right to Play Canada’s Canadian Advisory Board.

“This partnership is amazing,” he adds. “The Hub can serve as a funnel to bring people in and allow them to access supports that are offered. It’s a great way to bring people into the community.”

The Youth Wellness Hub at 120 Main Street South continues to provide services and supports to youth between 12 and 25 in the Kenora area, including access to navigational supports, the drop-in centre, and weekly Right to Play programming with KCA staff – like baseball, volleyball, fishing, team challenges and more – with transportation services for youth who need them.

“Right to Play is important in our communities because it helps our youth step outside of their shell, try new things they haven’t tried before, and discover new skills that they didn’t know that they had,” explains KCA’s Sports and Recreation Manager, Terry Parisien.

“It’s more than just a recreation program,” Parisien adds. “The Community Mentors also help the youth build leadership skills, life skills, and how to interact with each other in a healthy and respectful way.”

Ogimaawabiitong would like to send a huge Miigwetch to Right to Play staff, volunteers, and donors for their continued support, as well as each member of the Canadian Advisory Board who made the trip to northwestern Ontario.

“We are very thankful for the ongoing partnership we have had with Right to Play,” says Director of Health Promotion and Prevention Services with KCA, Jocelyne Goretzki.

“The support we received over the past eight years has allowed us to provide programming that enhances peer-to-peer relationships and improves physical and mental health for our children and youth.”

“Knowing that this group took the time to travel here and learn about KCA and our Right to Play Program makes me so proud of my team of Community Mentors and the impact our program has in our communities,” Goretzki adds.

Right to Play is an international organization that supports over 2 children and youth in 14 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, while supporting Indigenous youth across Canada. Through partnerships with Indigenous communities, Right to Play supports local programs that offer Indigenous youth the ability to make positive change in their lives and their communities.